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mini location map2019-07-12
15 by photographer avatarkingsnake
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Cunningham Loop TrailTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 12 2019
Hiking6.43 Miles 757 AEG
Hiking6.43 Miles   2 Hrs   46 Mns   2.32 mph
757 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I was going to hike Cunningham Loop Trail #316 last week. I only made it to Gold Canyon: [ triplog ] .

This week, I not only made it past Gold Canyon, but all the way to Cunningham Trailhead on the west slope of Mount Graham. Yeeee-HAH! 🥳

Because of the long drive, I did not start hiking until 10:45 a.m. I wish I was riding, rather than driving, as the views along AZ-366 were spectacular!

At the intersection, I went left, hiking clockwise. I figured by doing the Cunningham half of the trail clockwise, and the Grant Hill half counter-clockwise, I would do both Grant Creek crossings downhill. As I was expecting both crossings to be bushwhacks, I sure didn’t want to be fighting brush up a steep slope! ✋

One of the things I’ve noticed on my hikes through old wildfires is that even though a burn area may encompass some number of acres, what is actually burnt in that area varies from moonscape all the way to not at all. In other words, fire hopscotches around, varying with wind, topography, type of fuel, etc. Also, brush, shrubs, flowers & groundcover recover much faster than even small trees. This hike was no different.

2.3 miles into the hike, I arrived above Grant Creek, where I found a trail sign that seemed to indicate I should descend to the creek. (That sign coincided with the route I had downloaded from Haz.) I was expecting it to be a bushwhack, and it did not look like anything more than some bent brush. Certainly not a purpose-built trail. Meanwhile, though somewhat overgrown, FR 4535 continued and seemed more obvious. So, I followed FR 4535. 🧭

It ended in a ¼ mile. Totally disappeared. Due to fire damage, I could see the far side of Grant Creek, and there was no obvious trail of any sort on, above or below the 9400 ft. contour. Rather than double back to the wood sign, I headed down.

The effects of heavy post-Fry Fire erosion were obvious in Grant Creek. It was very rocky, with quite a bit of deadfall. It took me 30 minutes to canyon crawl a ⅓ of a mile. On the positive side, Grant Creek had good flow even though the first rains of the summer monsoon had yet to arrive. 🌤

A ¼ mile east of Grant Creek, FR 4539 was cut in half by a weed-choked gully. It was 1:30 p.m. I calculated it would take me two hours to hike the FR 4539 / FR 4541 half of the “figure 8”, plus another 90 minutes doubling back to Cunningham Trailhead on FR 4538. I had promised my wife I would be back around 3:00 p.m., so I bailed.

Heading back, FR 4538 crossed a number of small gullies, gradually eroding their way upslope with each passing monsoon. There were good-size patches of grass, weeds & other small greenery surrounding each gully. One grassy area even had a seep. All the gullies were easy to cross.

There was also more shade on FR 4538 than there was 200 ft. upslope on FR 4535, and that was despite the afternoon sun, which rotated to Mount Graham’s western slope. The shade was welcome, despite the temperature being only 72℉, as I had gotten burnt pretty good hiking through the Frye Fire burn area. Burnt from the sun, that is. 😁

Hike Video: [ youtube video ]
Named place
Named place
Grant Creek
Fire Burn Area & Recovery Sunburst
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
Overall, isolated. Maybe a dozen species total. Western Wallflowers were the most common species, and were spectacular.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Grant Creek Light flow Light flow
Loud flow between 9200-9400 el. Also found seep on east flank of Hill 9323.
_____________________ : Everyone's enjoyment of the outdoors is different and should be equally honored.
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